JFK's press secretary Salinger dies at 79

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The Independent US

Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John F Kennedy and a distinguished journalist, has died of a heart attack in the south of France. He was 79.

Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John F Kennedy and a distinguished journalist, has died of a heart attack in the south of France. He was 79.

Mr Salinger, who moved to France after the election of George Bush in 2000, had been in poor health for several years. He died in hospital near his home in Le Thor, east of Avignon. His son Gregory said: "He was an outstanding father; then there is his political commitment with the Kennedys, to try to advance an open and optimistic vision of the world."

Mr Salinger, born in San Francisco to a French-born mother and a father who was a mining engineer, started his career as a print journalist. His research for a 1956 article on the union leader James Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and is believed to have been murdered by the Mafia, put him in close contact with Robert Kennedy, who hired him as a counsel to the Senate committee then investigating organised crime.

From there he went to work for Senator John Kennedy, becoming White House spokesman in 1960. He accompanied the President to meetings with world leaders, including the 1961 meeting in Vienna with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. A year later, he was dispatched to Moscow to meet the Soviet leadership in person.

After Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Mr Salinger worked for Lyndon Johnson, then resigned from the White House to run for a Senate seat in California. He lost and returned to journalism, spending most of the next 30 years living in Europe working for a French magazine and ABC television, before returning to the US. Senator Edward Kennedy, JFK's brother, said: "He was a steady presence ... and many members of my family sought his counsel on all of the most important issues. His skill, genius and judgement in the art of communication were legendary."

The French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, said he had "contributed, through his action and his talent, to improving the ties of friendship which unite our two countries".

Nicole, Salinger's fourth wife, told The Washington Post that her husband loved the Provence area because it provided him a "sense of freedom". She added: "He was very upset with the electoral system in the US. He said, 'If George Bush is elected president, I will leave the country', and we did."

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